New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attracted all the right headlines when he put domestic violence firmly on the agenda for Parliament. But he appears to have put it on the agenda for all the wrong reasons.

Micahel Slater, a criminologist and gender violence expert, has spoken with news.com.au about the problem at the heart of PM Turnbull’s announcement.

The ‘Real men don’t hit women’ slogan trotted out by the Prime Minister this week is a well-worn, almost hackneyed expression.

“We’ve heard it before, it doesn’t help, and really,” said Mr Salter, “it’s destructive.”

If the slogan worked then we wouldn’t have any domestic violence (as most Gen X’ers and onwards were bought up with it). The very existence of domestic violence, in today’s society, points to the slogan’s failure – and hence the accusations of rhetoric against the PM’s use of it.

Worse still, Mr Salter argues the phras, “assumes that ‘real’ men are strong and ‘real’ men are protective and have authority, and that it’s wrong to hit women because they’re weak and passive. The statement only makes sense if we assume those things., and it reinforces those stereotypes.”

But it’s a message we’ve all grown up with, are used to, and we can all agree on. So it’s a sure approval-winner for a new leader, something that will get the entire constituency behind him.

Even though it’s wrong – and possibly damaging to the cause it purports to address.

First, Can you imagine the vitriol if a well-known personage publicly stated what a ‘real’ woman was? At every turn we are inundated with articles from the champions of feminism proclaiming how they are casting off the yokes of oppression and ‘creating’ themselves; so for someone (anyone) to hold them to a standard would be tantamount to heresy.

Second, the saying ‘Never hit a woman’ is false. That was never the original saying. The original saying was: ‘Never hit a lady.” Being a lady requires the woman in question behave to some level of civility.

Look at it this way: Women are free to perform the most vicious, vile, and mean acts imaginable if they know they will not face any consequences. A guy doing the same would earn a justly deserved punch in the face. But because of her gender a woman avoids being held to any level of accountability.

If a woman cheats on her partner what are the consequences? She has broken no law. If she is not religious she has committed no sin. Her male partner has no chance of being dealt with fairly in the Family Courts (if he wishes to go through the protracted and expensive agony of a divorce – one that will rip his life, family, and friends apart). So how is she held accountable for the pain she has caused her partner?

Third, physical abuse encompasses pretty much the entire spectrum of human contact. Almost any form of human contact may be construed as ‘abusive’ if the woman deems it so. There needn’t be a bruise to cut to show for it. Abuse can also be emotional, social, economic, even spiritual! So it more-or-less counts as abuse if the ‘victim’ says it is abuse – regardless of what actually happened.

Nobody likes being beaten up or humiliated, regardless of their gender. But when people feel they’ve been hurt they’ll look to redress that pain with whatever tools are available.

The trick to solving domestic violence is having better tools available.

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